Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Life of a Model

Ryan had his agency shots updated about two weeks back, on Valentine's Day.

Fortunately, we had an earlier than usual night and Ryan was asleep right up till the moment we got into the studio the next morning. Outfit selection was fast and painless, our photographer picked out a top from Mothercare (which we bought over the weekend) and a pair of white Richgi pants (which Ryan's nanny bought for him). After the usual measurement-taking and make-up, it was onto the bright lights!

As usual Ryan took some time to warm up but the warm up time was much shorter than the last time and after that, he seemed to really enjoy himself in front of the camera. He was much more animated this time, at times even making faces at and teasing the photographer!

I really like the exuberant expressions in this set. Ryan looks very comfortable and natural in the shots, so I think the "modelling" part of it is improving. I do wonder why his double eyelids seem to have disappeared in these shots - his eyes are a lot bigger and rounder than they appear here! And why aren't there any eyelashes? Is it because we didn't wash his face when he woke up in the studio? Hahaha! Oh well, the shots are full of life and happiness, so I'm guessing that was the reason why the photographer decided he got what he needed and was satisfied enough to stop shooting. The shoot took less than 5 minutes. Next session will be in August!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ryan's trusty steed

As you all know by now, Ryan does not like the stroller. We do have one (in fact we have two - one is with Ryan's nanny) but it is collecting dust in one of our cupboards somewhere. Be that as it may, Ryan does have a set of wheels that he is very fond of - the Step 2 Push Around Buggy.

You may remember it from this post, this postthis postthis one or this one

It is usually parked prominently next to our dining table. Ryan loves it because he associates it with outdoor walks, like our walks around the neighbourhood or our walks to the park/playground/Botanic Gardens. Those are the only times we use it, which is not to say it doesn't get a lot of love because we do get out for walks quite regularly.

It is a magnet for toddlers - everytime we park it at a playground, inevitably, a strange toddler will end up sitting in it. They walk up and sit in it as if it is the most natural thing to do. Ryan doesn't mind, so we just let them be. In fact, I usually stay away until the toddler leaves because I don't want to embarrass the parent (who is usually frantically looking around to see who the car belongs to).

Ryan is slowly but surely outgrowing his beloved buggy, so I thought I'd better document this precious memory for him now. Especially when I opened the trunk last Sunday and saw that he had carefully put some treasures inside.

There was a storybook, a magnifying glass, a red drinking straw, a lower-case "k" sticker, and two flowers that we picked up during a walk (dried up by now). They are obviously either items which he thought were important enough to hang onto for his outdoor walk or items which we came across on our walks which he thought were interesting enough to keep for further investigation.

Sigh. I can't describe how my heart melted when I saw his precious cargo. It's during moments like these when I wish time would slow down.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekend update

Notwithstanding our plan to have a restful weekend, we ended up running around a fair bit. After a late Friday night (yes, mahjong), we slept in on Saturday, missed breakfast and ventured out for brunch/early lunch - bak kut teh, yum yum. 

After that, we went shopping! Picked up a load of children's clothes at the Club 21 collectibles sale for kids at Forum. Also picked up a load of educational stuff for children at another shop in Forum (great for learning at home). Ryan had a short nap at home, after which we went out for dinner. Richard took us to a new spot - Picardy Garden - where we ended up in Momoya Japanese Restaurant. Enjoyed ourselves there, service was faultless and the food was good.

Here's Ryan (and Richard) playing while they waited for me to finish my food (after they finished theirs).

Back home, we spent hours doing educational stuff with Ryan (both Shichida and non-Shichida stuff). Significantly, we went through more than two hours of deskwork, ie. Ryan remained in his seat for more than two hours without getting up - that boy has really got stamina and focus! Richard and I had to take turns! Richard and I surrendered before Ryan did and we decided to end the night with ... dancing of course! We put Chicka Chicka Boom Boom on the CD player and Ryan got down to serious business with it!

Sunday morning, we finally turned up for swimming class! Yes, after missing five lessons in a row due to travelling and social commitments, we finally found ourselves poolside. And whaddya know - it was Awards Day!

Aquaducks were so concerned at our missing so many classes that they sent me an email last Friday to ask if there was any problem. Sigh. Richard was laughing that, first we kept getting to class late (or missing class altogether), then we got switched to a lower level class (at a later time), then we "ponteng" (that's Malay for "cut class") so many times that we got a letter from the school, then we turn up on Awards Day and "flunked" some of the test exercises! We are really terrible! Heh heh! But look at this photo - who can resist faces like these? Ryan always gets special treatment from Coach because Coach thinks he's so adorable. He gets away with everything!

There is a mistake in the certificate that Ryan is holding - it says Level 3 but Ryan passed Level 3 long ago and got his Level 4 in June 2011. We'll get the correct certificate next week... if we turn up. Heh heh. This programme consists of 6 levels. At Level 6, the children will be able to swim the length of the pool independently. Ryan is nearly there!

Anyway, the present time slot does not seem to be working out for us, given our other commitments, so I am looking into switching time slots. We are definitely going to keep plugging away at the classes because knowing how to swim is a must. It is a skill that could ultimately save a life (it is actually the only sport that can do that) and there are a host of other practical benefits, which I won't go into because I'm sure everyone knows how important learning to swim is and nobody can reasonably deny its value.

For lunch, we went to one of our regular hangouts - PappaMia at River Valley - and, coincidentally, our friends, Ee Fann, Shann and their daughter, Rou Ern, were there having lunch - what a nice surprise! The parents chatted and gossiped while Ryan and Ern had fun playing together. I am always amazed at how children this age naturally gravitate towards each other and play happily (whether with or without toys). Their happiness multiplies simply by virtue of being together.

After lunch and an errand, we went for Shichida class. Ryan was in such a good mood throughout the class - I think it must have been an effect of his unexpected playdate! After class, we went for a walk around the Esplanade shops, then it was back home. Ryan didn't want to nap so it was off to the park!

From the park, we went straight out to dinner. We drove out and Richard and I were chatting away in front, when Richard looked towards the back ... this was what he saw.

Richard and I had a good chuckle! We didn't want to disturb him so we got some takeaway and ate in the car, chatting softly while parked in an open air carpark as dusk turned to night - romantic eh?

As I am typing this, Ryan is sound asleep upstairs in our bedroom, Richard is watching footie and I am ready to hit the sack. It was a great weekend for us. In particular, I think Ryan had a fabulous Sunday - it was packed with his favourites - swimming, noodles at PappaMia, a surprise playdate with a member of the "Ern gang", Shichida, McDonald's French fries after class, a visit to the park - a wonderful, wonderful Sunday.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Get a good rest!

We'll be spending this weekend catching up on much-needed sleep. Hope you have a good weekend too.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A different point of view

Here's the latest selection from Richard's phone. Since round about Christmas last year, he has been using a different photography app, hence the different look of the shots. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dancing to Word World

I was going through my old videos last night and I found this one of Richard and Ryan dancing to the opening song of Word World. This was filmed sometime last year. I've uploaded it onto Youtube (it's about a minute long).

I mentioned on the blog last year that Ryan had been watching Word World, which he enjoyed very much. It is a preschool series that teaches letters, letter sounds, phonics, word building (letter by letter, sound by sound), vocabulary and reading skills (like sounding out letters, rhyming and "chunking"). I came across it by chance really - my colleague passed me a few hand-me-down DVDs and one of them was a Word World DVD. Ryan enjoyed it so much that Richard went out and bought more episodes.

I won't go into a review of the series here. I just want to show what Ryan always does when watching the series which is, whenever the music/songs come on, he gets up and dance! He always insists that one of us (usually Richard) dances along! And at the end of the song/dance, there is always, without fail, a great big hug.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ryan reading word cards

Here's a Youtube video (about 3 minutes long) of Ryan reading.

I want to highlight a few very important points here.

Firstly, we did not use these cards to teach Ryan how to read. These are Letterland word cards that are used to play rhyming games ("pen" rhymes with "ten"). Ryan already knew how to read when we bought these cards.

Second and more generally, I do not want to give anyone the impression that we use flashcards to teach reading. We do not. We do not believe that flashcards is the right way to teach reading (plus it is against Shichida principles to use flashcards to teach reading). You can see that I am not flashing the cards at all in the video and I am not trying to teach Ryan anything as I go through the cards. I am moving at Ryan's speed (not at flashing speed) and I am not saying a word. It is not a flashcard exercise at all. I am merely letting Ryan practice his reading. It would have been the same if I had printed all the words out on one sheet of paper.

Third, we are not using the sight word method (like, for example, the Glenn Doman reading method or "Your Baby Can Read" method). No doubt there are some words that Ryan has to read by sight but not in this set of word cards. As I mentioned above, these are Letterland word cards used for rhyming - there are no sight words in the set. In general, and as I have posted before, we do not use the sight word method, which is memory-based. Where the word can be decoded using phonics principles, we want Ryan to do that. We do not want Ryan to "recognise" a word - we want him to learn the skill of reading/decoding the word. (As an aside, I should say that, after reading up extensively on Glenn Doman, we disagree with and do not believe in the Glenn Doman method, which is almost completely opposite to the Shichida Method. I'll write more on that in a separate post.)

Fourth, as you can see from the video, Ryan does read phonetically. When stumped he will go back to first principles, ie. break the word down into letter sounds. This is obvious at 1:53 when I showed him "Firefighter Fred". He starts with the letter sound for "F' and, after decoding "red" in his head, blends the two together, thus decoding the word "Fred" correctly. Another sign that he reads phonetically and not from memory is, sometimes he gets stumped on a word which he has read without problem previously. He just decodes it again. For example, on previous occasions, he read "Firefighter Fred" without any problem but this time, he got stumped. Reading being a skill, he gets better at it with practice, ie. he can decode the word faster with practice.

Lastly, we do not use the Letterland method. Ryan does not know the characters "Firefighter Fred" or "Harry Hat Man" or "Quarrelsome Queen". There are pictures of these characters on the flip side of the cards, but we never look at them.

The purpose of the video is to record Ryan's speed and accuracy with very simple words at this stage. He is already reading more "complicated" words now (not as quickly as he can read the simple words in the video). We are happy to note that Ryan's reading ability has rocketed over the last few months. We do attribute this flight to the fact that we did not use the sight word method or the flashcard method at all to teach him reading (not forgetting our regular story reading time of course).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Our Sunday

Our homemade Valentine's Day card made a final appearance for 2012 - this was for Ryan's Shichida sensei! (Once again, I must say that the idea for the card wasn't mine, I got it from the internet.)

Shichida class went brilliantly and afterwards, we trooped down to Page One Bookstore to pick up more books from the sale. The queue to the cashier was horrendously long but it moved quickly and smoothly. After that, a little tired from the crowd, we sat down to rest and had a quick snack before setting off for home.

Ryan waiting patiently at the bookstore while we made our selections

When we got home, it was straight to the playground!

I was lying flat on the ground while taking this shot!

Flying off the ground!

This is father and son camwhoring with the camera phone.

Too soon, the sun started to leave the sky and so we reluctantly made our way home.

Back home, after a good bath, Ryan had his usual home activities before going to bed around midnight, including playing with this magnetic sticker set that we bought from Page One that day.

We did expect Ryan to sleep "early" as he hadn't taken a nap all day (Ryan did have some breastmilk) so we decided to skip dinner (with the option of having supper). We weren't hungry and we knew Ryan would be too tired to eat a full meal.

So, that was the end of our weekend. Looking back, there were a lot of happy moments (especially on Saturday) and I think Ryan enjoyed himself tremendously.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Belated Valentine's Day outing

On Saturday, we had a meet up with Shann and Alicia and their respective families for a belated Valentine's Day children's celebration.

We were in charge of snacks so, after we dragged ourselves out of bed, it was off to the market!

Breakfast was noodles from this Teochew Noodle stall in Marine Parade. There's always a long queue, it took us 30 minutes to get our food that day.

Back home, we lazed about for a bit before I started preparing the snacks at about 2pm. Each child got two mini hotdogs (no oil), roasted heart-shaped potatoes and hard boiled heart-shaped quail eggs, a cherry tomato and mini marshmallows.

This was the adult's serving - a grilled cheese sandwich, the roasted potatoes again (including the non-heart-shaped bits), quail eggs, cherry tomatoes and bacon-wrapped cocktail sausages baked with brown sugar.

Richard helped to pack the bento boxes. 

A note to myself: the roasted potatoes were way too salty! I used my usual marinade but overlooked the fact that my usual marinade is for WHOLE potatoes. These sliced potatoes absorbed the salt way faster and easier and tasted really sharp. They were ok if you ate them with the bread, but not on their own.

Shann brought fruits and Alicia brought drinks; each family brought a mat and there was a ball to kick about. We brought some bubble-blowers. We were all set for the picnic!

I asked Richard to make these as Valentine's Day cards from Ryan for Brayden and Rou Ern. The sticks are glow sticks slotted into the photographs.

Cute eh? The idea is not mine - I got it from the internet. It's definitely an idea that we will be recycling from time to time.

Shann and Ern baked cookies for the children, and Ryan wasted no time in digging in. He had three in quick succession!

The outing was fantastic! The weather was really kind - no sun, no rain, hardly felt any humidity, just perfect. Chris found us a private spot (I think we'll always camp there from now on).

The children were amazing together, they warmed up almost instantly, stuck together and played so well together. It was heartwarming to watch. Here are some shots from Richard's iPhone.

Ryan giving Brayden a hug. This started out as a group hug.
Ern was the first to let go (no longer in the picture) and Ryan was the last.

Shann had a friend come by to snap some photos of the families. Here's a sneak preview of her work - I lifted this off her facebook this morning. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the shots!

We had 7.30 pm dinner reservations at House at Dempsey, so we left about 7.15 pm. On the way out, we came across this lovely dog. He was huge and breathtakingly beautiful. The children couldn't get enough of him and his owner was more than happy to let them give him some love, even inviting them to sit on him like a horse (we didn't!).

Dinner was great, although not so much because of the food, which was a little patchy - as in not all, although most, of the dishes were good.  The star dish was the truffles fries - we had three servings! Other than that, everything was fantastic, especially the ambience. The place was fully booked but we were in a semi-private corner right at the end of the restaurant, which was perfect for us.

Alicia and Shann prepared pre-dinner activities for the children so the children were well occupied while waiting for their food.

Alicia printed some blank faces and the children had fun pasting the facial features (and spectacles) on. These are Ryan's creations.

Shann made some paper animals for the children to paste heart-shaped features on. These are Ryan's - an owl, a raccoon and a dinosaur. Fun!

Here are the three families - hard at work to earn their dinner! (These two photos were taken by Chris)

After that, the children did some doodling and writing while the food trickled onto the table, bit by bit. Upon seeing the soup being served to the others (we didn't order soup), Ryan started to fuss a little. I guessed that he was starting to feel hungry at that point as he didn't eat the snacks that we prepared. He only had three cookies and some mini-marshmallows. Normally he doesn't fuss out of hunger, but lack of sleep makes him edgy and irritable, so I was not surprised as he skipped his nap that day (discounting a 5-minute shuteye in the car on the way to the park). We took him away for a little while to let him vent his feelings as much as he needed to and he regained his good spirits when his food came (specifically, when the truffle fries came!).

After dinner, the ladies sat around and gossiped while the husbands followed the children around. The children went round to the back of the restaurant where there was a pond with fish/turtles, they jumped around in one of the empty private function rooms next to our table, and they trotted around the restaurant in a line pretending they were a train, "choo-choo" included. They were really good and they didn't disturb the other diners, the only loud sounds that could be heard above the dinner hum were their giggles and laughter. Most adorable was when Ern stumbled and fell in the restaurant which led to the other two falling (Ern was the train engine, Ryan was the kaboose at the end and Brayden was in the middle). They all started giggling because it was so comical. Coincidentally, they were right in front of a huge mirror at that point, and seeing themselves in the mirror amused them even more, sending them into more giggling fits.

I knew Ryan was suffering from a lack of sleep and, in that state, there was always a risk that something will irritate or annoy him, but nothing did. Well, actually there was one thing - the children would occasionally come back to the dining table to drink water and to check in with the mummies (no doubt, these were time-outs initiated by the weary fathers). Ern had done her check-in and was already off to the back of the restaurant. Ryan eagerly followed but suddenly stopped and started fussing, stretching his hand out towards the table. At first I thought, oh he wants me to go with him, but no ... he was upset that Brayden was not coming along! (Brayden was still at the dining table). Once Brayden was done and joined up, Ryan happily went off. That was really funny!

About 10.30 pm, the children finally let the parents call it a night. When they parted outside the restaurant, the three of them gave each other a huge group hug and refused to let go despite nearly toppling over. The parents had to tear them apart. Simply adorable.

We got home about 11 pm and Ryan fell asleep just before midnight, tired but extremely happy. It had been a fabulous day for him.

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